The Italian Antitrust Authority has submitted an opinion to the Italian Parliament and Government, in which it warns that SIAE’s current monopoly of the management of copyright restricts both the ability of other market operators to do business and users’ freedom of choice.
In a communication on the implementation of Directive 2014/26/EU by the European Parliament and the Council on the collective management of copyright in the internal market, the Antitrust Authority emphasised that the core of the Directive is based on freedom of choice and that it specifically provides rightsholders with the right to decide their choice of collective management organisation “(…) irrespective of the Member State of nationality, residence or establishment of the collective management organisation, the other entity or the rightholder (…)”.
The Antitrust Authority has remarked that in an economic climate characterized by significant technological changes, the preservation of a legal monopoly appears to be in contrast with the aim of enabling rightsholders to operate a free choice from a range of operators. According to the Authority, “the merit and the very rationale of the European legal framework are severely compromised by the presence within (Italian) national legislation, of the regulation contained in art. 180, law 22 April 1941, no. 633 (Italian copyright law), which is now a solitary case compared to other Member States’ legislations, in reserving to a single organisation (SIAE) the management activity regarding copyrights”.
The Antitrust Authority stresses that the implementation of the Directive offers the opportunity to open up the market to competitor organisations in the field of copyright management. However, the draft law approved by the Chamber of deputies and currently under discussion before the Senate, which delegates the Government to implement European directives and carry out other acts of the European Union (the 2015 European delegation law), does not expressly provide for any specific action on SIAE’s status as a legal monopoly.
Therefore, the Authority hopes that action aiming at liberalisation should be integrated by an overall reform of the procedures of copyright management listed in the Copyright law, without overlooking a review of the role and the function of the SIAE in today’s changed climate.
* SIAE is the acronym for the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (Società italiana degli Autori e Editori).
The Court of Milan has rendered a decision in favour of the Soundreef start-up, thus effectively opening up the market to free competition from music copyright collecting societies regarding the collection and distribution of music royalties.
Background music for shopping malls and other businesses is therefore not necessarily limited to the mediation of SIAE, the sole rights management society in Italy.
This ruling by The Court of Milan rejects the requests made both by a songwriter member of SIAE (Laura Piccinelli) and the in-store radio Ros & Ros, which specializes in creating playlists for shopping malls and is on the list of subjects with SIAE authorization.
The lawsuit was started with the aim of prohibiting the collecting activities of Soundreef, a London based collecting society, which distributes a large catalogue of in-store background music to businesses in Italy.
The Plaintiffs had invoked art. 180 of Law no. 633 of April 22, 1941 of the Copyright Act which granted SIAE a legal monopoly over copyright collecting services. With its recourse to urgent procedure, the Court of Milan has sought to give precedence to art. 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union regarding free movement of services, adjudging that there is not sufficient evidence to consider the distribution of music by Soundreef in Italy to be illegal and even less to assert that “the music managed and distributed by Soundreef in Italy in shopping malls and other similar businesses should necessarily be entrusted to SIAE’s mediation. Such a claim would conflict with the principles of free trade within the EU and with the fundamental principles of free competition”.
In addition, the Judges have decreed that, since Soundreef is a British company, “it cannot be said that there exists any obligation for European collecting societies only to do business in Italy by way of reciprocal agreements with the local collecting society. This would only occur at the discretion of the parties, but is not to be considered as an obligation”.
The dispute between Soundreef and SIAE had appeared inevitable, as the London based start-up’s structure allows the uploading of free music tracks by artists who keep 100% of the related property rights.